After the Japanese conquered all of the Asian colonies in late 1941 and the spring of 1942, they got the idea that they should separate the senior officers and chain of command from the regular enlisted men, so that the latter would not be able to function and would be easier for the Japanese to control. So in August and early September 1942 they began to move these highest-ranking officers to their island fortress of Taiwan which had been a Japanese possession since the end of the Sino - Japanese War in 1895.
The first group of highest-ranking officers to arrive in Taiwan were the Americans under Lieut. General Jonathan Wainwright and Major Generals King and Moore from the Philippines. 179 officers and men arrived at Takao (Kaohsiung) Harbour in mid-August 1942 on the Nagara Maru and were transferred to a local coastal steamer which the POWs called the Otaru Maru, but which was later correctly identified as the Suzuya Maru, for the remainder of the journey which took them to Karenko Camp mid-way up the east coast of the island and today is known as Hualien.
Next, the top-ranking officers from Singapore and the Dutch East Indies - Lieut. Generals Percival and Heath and Major General Callaghan of the Australian Forces from Singapore, and Lieut. General H. ter Poorton from the Dutch East Indies, were transported to Taiwan on the England Maru along with many brigadiers and colonels and their batmen. This group also included the governors and civil officials from Singapore, the Federated Malay States, Straits Settlements and Sumatra. After spending about a week at Heito Camp, they were moved out to join their American counterparts at Karenko Camp.
From the outset of their stay at Karenko the Japanese tried to humiliate the senior officers and treated them very badly. Many were beaten and forced to do work which was beyond their ability as older men. The Japanese made the POWs work a local farm project to supposedly grow food to supplement their diet and then it was taken by the Japanese guards for their own use. The senior officers and the governors were also made to herd goats which was a difficult task for them.
Food was always a problem and the Japs enjoyed playing games with the POWs when it came to withholding food and supplies from them. As a result of the poor diet and withheld medical supplies, three of the POWs died in this camp. British Maj/Gen. Merton Beckwith-Smith was the first to die on November 11, 1942, followed on February 11, 1943 by M/Sgt. James Cavanagh and later by Col.Paul Bunker on March 16, both of the US Army.
In April 1943 it was decided to send 117 of the higher-ranking POWs and governors to another camp inland south of Karenko called Tamazato as the Red Cross wished to pay a visit, and because conditions were so deplorable at Karenko this new camp provided a better opportunity to show how well the prisoners were supposedly being treated. At Tamazato the men had better food and did not have to do any work. They were allowed to rest and relax and consequently were in better health and more fit by the time the Red Cross visited in June.
Following the Red Cross visit, all but 28 of the highest ranking officers and governors were transferred back to Karenko once again and a couple of days later were moved to Shirakawa Camp in south-central Taiwan along with the remainder of the men who had been at Karenko. The 28 senior officers and governors were then sent to Taihoku Camp 5 and Karenko Camp was closed.
In 2012 the Society erected a memorial to the men of Karenko Camp on the site of the current Military Police Base in Hualien. It was dedicated on November 12th and will stand forever in tribute to those who suffered and those who died there.